Confronted by FBI abuses, Congress ready to add civil liberty protections to key surveillance law

Mar 27, 2023 | Political News

After years of evidence that the FBI has abused its spy authorities, Congress is embarking on a bipartisan effort to revamp a key surveillance law to better protect civil liberties, including appointing special lawyers to advocate on behalf of Americans secretly targeted by the government.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Section 702 powers allow the government to rummage through phone records in terrorism and counterintelligence probes without a warrant and have long raised deep concerns, starting with ACLU litigation years ago and continuing through the bungled FISA warrant that unlawfully targeted the Trump campaign and adviser Carter Page during the Russia collusion probe.

But lawmakers continued to renew the law to ensure the government had the powers it needed to fight terror threats. But since its last renewal, the FISA Court and the U.S. intelligence community released devastating reports in 2020 and 2022 chronicling years of FISA abuses that went far beyond the Russia probe and even included targeting of a sitting member of Congress.